The chilly fall season wouldn’t be complete without a warm, comforting, fall harvest meal from my favourite Italian vegetarian place! I know that even though it’s technically still fall, we’re sort of in a weird place right now where the leaves have fallen, the trees are naked, and we’re donning sunglasses in the mild weather one day and bundling up to our ears in winter clothes the next. Winter hasn’t taken over just yet though so I think it’s safe to continue doing Fall Harvest posts, especially when they’re as bright, vibrant, and colourful as this! Roberto’s amazing, delicious vegetarian and vegan food has never failed to brighten up a meal, but this fall comfort lunch was like rainbow artwork on plates.
I’ve been eating at Mela for over a year now and I’ve loved watching the seasonal fluctuations and changes in ingredients and dishes. The everyday stand-bys such as the breaded eggplant panini and homemade ravioli with ricotta are present at all times, but menu items such as the vegan coconut lime cream tarts and summer vegetable salads have summer sunshine written all over them, while warm comfort foods such as rice and potatoes with root vegetable like beet and rapini provide that sense of warmth and coziness during the cold winter months. I got the chance to see and eat some wonderful fall food this time and it was beautiful, artistic, and of course, delicious.
This time around I stuffed my face into a new menu item as well as a consistent classic: curry cauliflower risotto and veggie stuffed bell peppers! The orange bell peppers were grilled and stuffed with rice, tomatoes, onions, and broccoli and were super soft with that perfect blistered skin. One thing that really delighted me was the artwork on my plate. Roberto had created a soup painting beneath the stuffed bell pepper! Check it out. I couldn’t believe it. Forget latte art, bring on the adorable shapes made out of soup! Roberto had poured the cauliflower soup into the tomato sauce in such a way that the shape of an apple formed right under my lovely bell pepper. I literally did a double take when I saw it and I almost didn’t want to disrupt the masterpiece by cutting into the pepper. But alas, nature called and I was hungry so I captured eleventy billion photos of it before it went away. Food artistry at its finest.
Here’s the thing though: I DON’T EVEN LIKE CAULIFLOWER. I’ve grown to love many foods I used to wrinkle my nose at when I was younger, but cauliflower has always remained on my “I do not fancy you” list. Which begs the question, “why did I decide on these dishes if I don’t even care for cauliflower?” Simply put, I wanted to give broccoli’s much paler cousin a shot. This fall, my mum started integrating more cauliflower into our vegetable dishes at home and I found myself enjoying it so much more when she made them. Call it bias toward my mum’s home cooking, call it a foodie epiphany; I didn’t hate it as much as I used to. However, I only preferred it the way my mum cooked it because to me, and forgive me for saying this, every other cauliflower experience has tasted awful. I might as well have been eating cardboard. Which means my choosing a dish with cauliflower in it at Mela was a big deal. I was putting my faith in Roberto on this one. The verdict? You know food is good when you start scarfing down things you’ve disliked for years.
Although I enjoyed the stuffed bell pepper (goodness do I ever love the char and blistered pepper skin done right), it was the curry cauliflower risotto that completely won me over and had me “mmm”ing for a good half hour straight! It was so incredibly delicious and flavourful and so colourful. It was a joy to look at and an even bigger joy to eat. I love risotto to pieces because the creaminess of it just makes me want to go into spoon-to-mouth shovel mode and I get so excited whenever I get the chance to eat it. It’s like rice stew and the versatility of it means endless ingredient possibilities.
I have never had a curry risotto before. Mushroom risotto, yes. One of my friends even made a fabulous, homemade walnut, apple, blue cheese risotto for a dinner party a few years ago. But curry risotto? That combination hadn’t even entered my foodie universe. The curry cauliflower risotto was served as a triangular “pie” slice with rich, creamy curry rice and chunks of cauliflower sitting in a plate of cauliflower soup with olive oil drizzle, topped with Mela’s famous piping hot tomato sauce. The curry was like a bursting firework of savoury flavour and the risotto was perfectly creamy and smooth without being mushy. You could taste every rice grain with the tomato sauce and curry intertwining into one mouthful of pure heaven.
Every time I come to Mela I’m eating something wonderfully delicious and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to choose between items and to pick a favourite! Hands down, the curry cauliflower risotto is in my top 3 favourite things here at Mela. The ravioli is in this top 3 too, but that’s about the best I can do because I can’t settle on another item to round the list out. Winter is quickly approaching and I’m looking forward to another visit and I can’t wait to see (and taste) the scrumptious goodies waiting for me.
Mela Café is located at 7 Yorkville Ave., north of Cumberland St. and just west of Yonge St. All dishes are either vegetarian or vegan and prices range from $4-$8.50. They are primarily a lunch cafe during the week, open until around 4:30pm-5pm from Monday to Friday, and with later closing hours on Saturday. They are closed on Sunday.
Scrapbook materials used: Poppy red, orange, pale yellow, neon green, and cappuccino cardstock; apron and oven mitt adhesive embellishments (In the Kitchen by Karen Foster Design); alphabet stickers (K&Company); floral die-cuts (K&Company); 5-petal paper punch (ek success).